An Easter Carrot Cake for Beginners

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Easter is always my favorite holiday. Christmas is wonderful and special, and has so much anticipation built up to it that makes for so much fun and excitement. However, because it’s couched between Thanksgiving, New Years, and the general holiday craze, it can be a bit overwhelming with so much activity.  But, not Easter! Instead, Easter has a quiet start with the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday and slowly builds up with the coming of Spring, before Easter Sunday.

Chris volunteered me to bring carrot cake for Easter dinner this year.  I was more than happy to oblige because I love any excuse to bake 😉 In our home carrot cake season starts in February when Chris requests it as his birthday cake – it’s his favorite so I’m making it my duty to find (or create) the most perfect carrot cake recipe in the world.  If you have one, feel free to send it my way.  So far, this recipe is as close as we’ve gotten.  I’ve made it a handful of times now and it comes out moist and delicious every time — even when I think “uh oh, this time it’s going to fail me” it doesn’t! It’s a great cake for every spring occasion: bridal showers, baby showers, engagement parties, dinner parties, baptisms etc…

I call it a “beginners” carrot cake because I have actually memorized this recipe – that’s how easy it is! It’s a one bowl recipe.  Mix the oil and sugar, add the eggs, sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, add the grated carrots, raisins, pecans – and boom you’re done! …. well, after it spends almost an hour in the oven.  🙂

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INGREDIENTS:                                                                                                                         *Recipe adapted from What’s Gaby Cooking Layered Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups finely grated and peeled carrots – I peel them and then place in my mini Cuisinart food processor to grind.  I use my mini food processor more than I ever would have imagined, it’s one of my favorites.
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 8oz packages of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.  Grease 2 8inch round cake pans.
  2. Using a stand mixer, or large bowl and hand mixer, beat the sugar and vegetable oil until thoroughly combined.  Add the eggs 1 at a time.  I make sure each egg has been entirely mixed in before adding the next.  It only takes a few seconds for each egg.
  3. Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into the sugar/oil/egg mixture.  I place this strainer over my stand mixer and put all the dry ingredients into the strainer to “sift” through to the sugar/oil/egg mixture.  Stir in the carrots, raisins, and pecans.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  Try to divid the batter equally between both pans! Bake about 50-55 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let cakes cool completely before frosting.
  5. To make the frosting: use either the wire whip attachment on your stand mixer, or a handheld mixer, and whip together the powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract until it is creamy and smooth.
  6. Put one cake layer on a cake plate and spread with frosting.  Then put the other cake on top and spread with frosting.  Enjoy!

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Cheers!

The Only Cookie Recipe You Need this Holiday Season

img_1102These Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Cookies were love at first sight! I first fell in love with them when I saw them on Displaced Housewife’s Instagram post, before I even saw the recipe or tasted them.  She created these cookies, and they are incredible.  They could be one of my most favorite cookie I’ve ever made to date.  Yeah, they’re that good.  I’ve given them to family, neighbors, friends, more family, people on the airplane.  My kids have devoured them – I almost let them eat them for breakfast.  ALMOST.  I figured they had pumpkin in them, but then I came to my senses and peeled them a banana.

I have this thing with pumpkin.  I love everything pumpkin EXCEPT Pumpkin Pie.  It’s just a too much pumpkin, not enough spice, not enough dough, weird textured pie.  I’ll reluctantly eat it smothered with ice cream and drenched with whipped cream, but that doesn’t count, does it?   Alas, maybe next year I’ll figure out a Pumpkin Pie recipe I can eat like a normal person, with a little dollop of whipped cream and nothing else.  I suppose it bothers me that I don’t like pumpkin pie because I like pumpkin everything (else) pumpkin: pumpkin bread, pumpkin gelato, pumpkin scones, pumpkin cookies… and hope you enjoy these pumpkin cookies like I have!

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I’ve made these cookies using both sunflower oil, as the recipe calls for, and grape seed oil and they were equally good.  I could not taste a difference.

I also made them with semi sweet chocolate chips and milk chocolate chips and I think the pumpkin tastes much better with the semi sweet chocolate chips – but you decide

Cheers!

And a Good October it Was!

img_2743So long, October! That was fast. Pumpkin patch, train rides, Halloween decorating, pumpkin scones, sweater weather – and flip flop weather, who am I kidding? This is California after all!

In the midst of all this Halloween/October excitement, we celebrated two kiddos turning 4 and 1 a couple of weekends ago.  It’s hard to believe, yet true. It makes me want to stop and reflect on the beauty of this life we’re given. I hope that like children, we always find joy in all things, love deeply, and continue to develop, grow and learn about ourselves and this enormously small world. Stay curious, and courageous.

Speaking of birthdays, we also celebrated my “little” sister’s birthday this past weekend.  By little, I mean, she’s like, oh, say: 5’10 and a cool college kid!  Not your typical “little”. We had a blast driving our whole family in a rental van up to Napa for some wine tasting, lunch, and general day trip.  V. Sattui has a great area with picnic tables and a BBQ with ribs and mozzarella tomato paninis that were amazing over a few bottles of their wine! Afterwards, the wine at Turnbull did not disappoint! Either did their gardens, I got so much inspiration for our yard we’ve been landscaping over the last couple of months 🙂

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Both of the kids cakes came from Icing on the Cake – one of my favorite bakeries since I was a kid!
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He did not want to be anything BUT a GARBAGE TRUCK for Halloween!! Hence… we scrambled at the last minute… he LOVED IT!
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RAIN COATS!! Hope we get to wear these a lot this winter 😉

cheers!

An Easy Peachy Cobbler

 

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Fall is here.  Really, how? The Weather app tells me it’s going to be in the high 90’s this weekend.  This happens every year: fall comes around and in September/October we get a week or two of killer heat, blazing sun, AC-busting weather.  The only time I appreciated it was when I was living on the East Coast and it had been cold and rainy, when I came back to visit in October and laid by the pool for 5 days straight.  Bottom line is I’m ready for fall ya’ll.  Real true fall weather.  Until then, I’ll leave you with this super easy, and delicious Peach Cobbler that is perfect for a large gathering of friends and family on a hot weekend.

Disclaimer: this isn’t the prettiest cobbler in the world. I’ve made it dozens of times, it’s never “pretty” but it tastes incredible.  I guarantee it will be devoured. img_0592

RECIPE

Recipe Notes:

  • The recipe calls for nectarines, but I almost always use peaches. 5-6 peaches, instead of the 4 nectarines the recipe states.
  • I typically use less buttermilk: 2/3 cup instead of 3/4.
  • Sometimes, if I don’t have raspberries, I’ll use blueberries.  Just as good!

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Cheers!

Summer Zucchini Bread

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Zoooooochini Bread! A little while back this recipe popped up on Smitten Kitchen’s Instagram feed, I knew I had to make it.  I had a few zucchini sitting in the fridge, and I didn’t want them to go bad, bud I didn’t really feel like using them in anything.  Cue: Zucchini Bread.  Like Banana Bread is to bananas when they are starting to go past due, Zucchini Bread is to zucchini when it’s on its final days.

This recipe yields 2 loafs, which I love because you can keep one loaf for yourself and gift the other to friends, family, neighbors.  My brother lives really close, so I called him and told him there was a loaf of zucchini bread wrapped up and ready for him to pick up when he could.  A couple of hours later, he popped by and happily took his loaf home with him, to keep as a snack for his long hours studying and working.  It’s a win – win because I got to see him for 10 minutes and he got a loaf of bread.  Who wouldnt love that? Right? In fact, I think I’m going to get a few zucchini at the store this afternoon solely to make this bread again tomorrow…

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INGREDIENTS:

3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons  vanilla extract
3 cups  all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
1 cup raisins or chocolate chips (I used about half a cup of chocolate chips and half a cup of raisins)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease two 8×4 inch loaf pans.  I always take about a tablespoon of butter and smudge it all over the pans, then I sprinkle some flour over the butter, and pat it around to make sure the pan is greased well, and that the bread will fall out when it’s done.  There’s nothing worse than taking the time and energy to bake something delicious and then not be able to get it out of the pan!! Please tell me it’s happened to you too, no?
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Mix in the oil and sugar, then the zucchini and vanilla.
  4. Combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add the nuts, raisins, and/or chocolate chips.  I added a combination of raisins, pecans, and chocolate chips, totaling almost 2 cups worth.
  5. Mix these dry ingredients into the wet egg mixture. Divide the batter into the prepared pans.
  6. Bake the loaves for about 60 minutes.  I start to check it around 50 minutes, then let it bake for another 10-15 before I take it out and let it cool.

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Cheers!

 

Lemon Curd For the Win

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At some point in my early life I fell in love with lemon desserts.  I’m not sure when it happened, which dessert it was, where I was… I’ve always loved lemon desserts.  Lemon curd straight up, or served on anything, lemon bars, lemon pound cake, lemon icing, lemon cake, lemon with blueberries, lemon bundtinis.  I even cook with lemons! In chicken, fish, dressings… you get the idea.

The other day I needed a quick little something to help me say “Thank You” and show my appreciation.  I had heard through the grapevine that they enjoyed lemon curd as much as I do, so I decided to whip some up since it’d been a while.  I used this recipe as a guidepost. I added a little twine and a quick “Thank You” stamp on some cute paper.  That evening, after Chris came home, we put the kids in the car and drove out for our little delivery.  Nothing like a drive to get the kids to sleep, get a Thank You out, and have a little one on one quiet time to chat and connect – everyone wins!

P.S. This takes 5-10 minutes to cook!

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This is how I “strain” it after it’s cooked, in case you were wondering! *See recipe below
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This is how you want the curd to coat the wooden spoon, and you’ll know it’s done

INGREDIENTS:

3 large eggs

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 4 lemons)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. I used a double boiler, but you can improvise by putting a heatproof bowl over a pan of water. Cook the eggs, sugar, and lemon zest and juice, by whisking it until it becomes thick (like in the above photo, where the curd coats the wooden spoon). This should take no more than 10 minutes, be sure the water is hot hot hot – boiling even!
  2. Remove from heat and strain the curd (as seen in the picture above). Add the butter, cut into pieces, and whisk until it’s melted and mixed in.
  3. Cover, by placing saran wrap right on top of the curd, and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.
  4. Enjoy! Especially, on pound cake with a cup of tea 😉

Cheers!

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